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Packet switching

Packet switching is a method of grouping data that is transmitted over a digital network into packets.
Packets are made of a header and a payload. Data in the header is used by networking hardware to direct the
packet to its destination where the payload is extracted and used by application software. Packet switching is
the primary basis for data communications in computer networks worldwide.

In the early 1960s, American computer scientist Paul Baran developed the concept Distributed Adaptive
Message Block Switching with the goal to provide a fault-tolerant, efficient routing method for
telecommunication messages as part of a research program at the RAND Corporation, funded by the US
Department of Defense.[1] This concept contrasted with, and contradicted, then-established principles of
pre-allocation of network bandwidth, largely fortified by the development of telecommunications in the Bell
System. The new concept found little resonance among network implementers until the independent work of
British computer scientist Donald Davies at the National Physical Laboratory (United Kingdom) in 1965.
Davies is credited with coining the modern term packet switching and inspiring numerous packet switching
networks in the decade following, including the incorporation of the concept in the early ARPANET in the
United States.[2][3]

Contents
Concept
History
Connectionless and connection-oriented modes
Packet switching in networks
Packet-switched networks
Early networks
X.25 era
Internet era
See also
References
Bibliography
Further reading
External links

Concept
A simple definition of packet switching is:

The routing and transferring of data


by means of addressed packets so
that a channel is occupied during
the transmission of the packet only,
and upon completion of the
transmission the channel is made
available for the transfer of other
traffic[4][5]

Packet switching allows delivery of variable bit


rate data streams, realized as sequences of
packets, over a computer network which
allocates transmission resources as needed using
statistical multiplexing or dynamic bandwidth
allocation techniques. As they traverse An animation demonstrating datagram type of packet
networking hardware, such as switches and switching across a network
routers, packets are received, buffered, queued,
and retransmitted (stored and forwarded),
resulting in variable latency and throughput depending on the link capacity and the traffic load on the
network. Packets are normally forwarded by intermediate network nodes asynchronously using first-in, first-
out buffering, but may be forwarded according to some scheduling discipline for fair queuing, traffic
shaping, or for differentiated or guaranteed quality of service, such as weighted fair queuing or leaky bucket.
Packet-based communication may be implemented with or without intermediate forwarding nodes (switches
and routers). In case of a shared physical medium (such as radio or 10BASE5), the packets may be delivered
according to a multiple access scheme.

Packet switching contrasts with another principal networking paradigm, circuit switching, a method which
pre-allocates dedicated network bandwidth specifically for each communication session, each having a
constant bit rate and latency between nodes. In cases of billable services, such as cellular communication
services, circuit switching is characterized by a fee per unit of connection time, even when no data is
transferred, while packet switching may be characterized by a fee per unit of information transmitted, such
as characters, packets, or messages.

A packet switch has four components: input ports, output ports, routing processor, and switching fabric.

History
The concept of switching small blocks of data was first explored independently by Paul Baran at the RAND
Corporation in the early 1960s in the US and Donald Davies at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in
the UK in 1965.[6][7][8]

In the late 1950s, the US Air Force established a wide area network for the Semi-Automatic Ground
Environment (SAGE) radar defense system. They sought a system that might survive a nuclear attack to
enable a response, thus diminishing the attractiveness of the first strike advantage by enemies (see Mutual
assured destruction).[9] Baran developed the concept of distributed adaptive message block switching in
support of the Air Force initiative.[10] The concept was first presented to the Air Force in the summer of
1961 as briefing B-265,[9] later published as RAND report P-2626 in 1962,[11] and finally in report RM
3420 in 1964.[12] Report P-2626 described a general architecture for a large-scale, distributed, survivable
communications network. The work focuses on three key ideas: use of a decentralized network with
multiple paths between any two points, dividing user messages into message blocks, and delivery of these
messages by store and forward switching.

Davies developed a similar message routing concept in 1965. He called it simply packet switching, and
proposed building a nationwide network in the UK.[13] He gave a talk on the proposal in 1966, after which a
person from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told him about Baran's work. Roger Scantlebury, a member of
Davies' team met Lawrence Roberts at the 1967 Symposium on Operating Systems Principles and suggested
it for use in the ARPANET.[14] Davies had chosen some of the same parameters for his original network
design as did Baran, such as a packet size of 1024 bits. In 1966, Davies proposed that a network should be
built at the laboratory to serve the needs of NPL and prove the feasibility of packet switching. After a pilot
experiment in 1967,[15][16] the NPL Data Communications Network entered service in 1969.[17]

Leonard Kleinrock conducted early research in queueing theory for his doctoral dissertation at MIT in 1961-
2 and published it as a book in 1964 in the field of message switching.[18] In 1968, Lawrence Roberts
contracted with Kleinrock to carry out theoretical work to model the performance of the ARPANET, which
underpinned the development of the network in the early 1970s.[6] The NPL team also carried out
simulation work on packet networks, including datagram networks.[17][19]

The French CYCLADES network, designed by Louis Pouzin in the early 1970s, was the first to employ
what came to be known as the end-to-end principle, and make the hosts responsible for the reliable delivery
of data on a packet-switched network, rather than this being a centralized service of the network itself.

In May 1974, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn described the Transmission Control Program (TCP), an
internetworking protocol for sharing resources using packet-switching among the nodes.[20] The
specifications of the TCP were then published in RFC 675 (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc675) (Specification
of Internet Transmission Control Program), written by Vint Cerf, Yogen Dalal and Carl Sunshine in
December 1974.[21] This monolithic protocol was later layered as the Transmission Control Protocol, TCP,
atop the Internet Protocol, IP.

Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) VLSI (very-large-scale integration) technology led to


the development of high-speed broadband packet switching during the 1980s–1990s.[22][23][24]

Connectionless and connection-oriented modes


Packet switching may be classified into connectionless packet switching, also known as datagram switching,
and connection-oriented packet switching, also known as virtual circuit switching. Examples of
connectionless systems are Ethernet, Internet Protocol (IP), and the User Datagram Protocol (UDP).
Connection-oriented systems include X.25, Frame Relay, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), and the
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

In connectionless mode each packet is labeled with a destination address, source address, and port numbers.
It may also be labeled with the sequence number of the packet. This information eliminates the need for a
pre-established path to help the packet find its way to its destination, but means that more information is
needed in the packet header, which is therefore larger. The packets are routed individually, sometimes taking
different paths resulting in out-of-order delivery. At the destination, the original message may be
reassembled in the correct order, based on the packet sequence numbers. Thus a virtual circuit carrying a
byte stream is provided to the application by a transport layer protocol, although the network only provides a
connectionless network layer service.

Connection-oriented transmission requires a setup phase to establish the parameters of communication


before any packet is transferred. The signaling protocols used for setup allow the application to specify its
requirements and discover link parameters. Acceptable values for service parameters may be negotiated.
The packets transferred may include a connection identifier rather than address information and the packet
header can be smaller, as it only needs to contain this code and any information, such as length, timestamp,
or sequence number, which is different for different packets. In this case, address information is only
transferred to each node during the connection setup phase, when the route to the destination is discovered
and an entry is added to the switching table in each network node through which the connection passes.
When a connection identifier is used, routing a packet requires the node to look up the connection identifier
in a table.

Connection-oriented transport layer protocols such as TCP provide a connection-oriented service by using
an underlying connectionless network. In this case, the end-to-end principle dictates that the end nodes, not
the network itself, are responsible for the connection-oriented behavior.

Packet switching in networks


Packet switching is used to optimize the use of the channel capacity available in digital telecommunication
networks, such as computer networks, and minimize the transmission latency (the time it takes for data to
pass across the network), and to increase robustness of communication.

Packet switching is used in the Internet and most local area networks. The Internet is implemented by the
Internet Protocol Suite using a variety of Link Layer technologies. For example, Ethernet and Frame Relay
are common. Newer mobile phone technologies (e.g., GPRS, i-mode) also use packet switching. Packet
switching is associated with connectionless networking because, in these systems, no connection agreement
needs to be established between communicating parties prior to exchanging data.

X.25 is a notable use of packet switching in that, despite being based on packet switching methods, it
provides virtual circuits to the user. These virtual circuits carry variable-length packets. In 1978, X.25
provided the first international and commercial packet switching network, the International Packet Switched
Service (IPSS). Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) also is a virtual circuit technology, which uses fixed-
length cell relay connection oriented packet switching. Technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching
(MPLS) and the Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP) create virtual circuits on top of datagram networks.
MPLS and its predecessors, as well as ATM, have been called "fast packet" technologies. MPLS, indeed, has
been called "ATM without cells".[25] Virtual circuits are especially useful in building robust failover
mechanisms and allocating bandwidth for delay-sensitive applications.

Packet-switched networks
The history of packet-switched networks can be divided into three overlapping eras: early networks before
the introduction of X.25 and the OSI model, the X.25 era when many postal, telephone, and telegraph
companies introduced networks with X.25 interfaces, and the Internet era.[26][27][28]

Early networks

Research into packet switching at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) began with a proposal for a wide-
area network in 1965,[2] and a local-area network in 1966.[29] ARPANET funding was secured in 1966 by
Bob Taylor, and planning began in 1967 when he hired Larry Roberts. The NPL network, ARPANET, and
SITA HLN became operational in 1969. Before the introduction of X.25 in 1973,[30] about twenty different
network technologies had been developed. Two fundamental differences involved the division of functions
and tasks between the hosts at the edge of the network and the network core. In the datagram system,
operating according to the end-to-end principle, the hosts have the responsibility to ensure orderly delivery
of packets. In the virtual call system, the network guarantees sequenced delivery of data to the host. This
results in a simpler host interface but complicates the network. The X.25 protocol suite uses this network
type.

AppleTalk
AppleTalk is a proprietary suite of networking protocols developed by Apple in 1985 for Apple Macintosh
computers. It was the primary protocol used by Apple devices through the 1980s and 1990s. AppleTalk
included features that allowed local area networks to be established ad hoc without the requirement for a
centralized router or server. The AppleTalk system automatically assigned addresses, updated the distributed
namespace, and configured any required inter-network routing. It was a plug-n-play system.[31][32]

AppleTalk implementations were also released for the IBM PC and compatibles, and the Apple IIGS.
AppleTalk support was available in most networked printers, especially laser printers, some file servers and
routers. AppleTalk support was terminated in 2009, replaced by TCP/IP protocols.[31]

ARPANET

The ARPANET was a progenitor network of the Internet and the first network to run the TCP/IP suite using
packet switching technologies.

BNRNET

BNRNET was a network which Bell-Northern Research developed for internal use. It initially had only one
host but was designed to support many hosts. BNR later made major contributions to the CCITT X.25
project.[33]

CYCLADES

The CYCLADES packet switching network was a French research network designed and directed by Louis
Pouzin. First demonstrated in 1973, it was developed to explore alternatives to the early ARPANET design
and to support network research generally. It was the first network to use the end-to-end principle and make
the hosts responsible for reliable delivery of data, rather than the network itself. Concepts of this network
influenced later ARPANET architecture.[34][35]

DECnet

DECnet is a suite of network protocols created by Digital Equipment Corporation, originally released in
1975 in order to connect two PDP-11 minicomputers.[36] It evolved into one of the first peer-to-peer
network architectures, thus transforming DEC into a networking powerhouse in the 1980s. Initially built
with three layers, it later (1982) evolved into a seven-layer OSI-compliant networking protocol. The DECnet
protocols were designed entirely by Digital Equipment Corporation. However, DECnet Phase II (and later)
were open standards with published specifications, and several implementations were developed outside
DEC, including one for Linux.

DDX-1

DDX-1 was an experimental network from Nippon PTT. It mixed circuit switching and packet switching. It
was succeeded by DDX-2.[37]

EIN

The European Informatics Network (EIN), originally called COST 11, was a project beginning in 1971 to
link networks in Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Euratom. Six other European countries also
participated in the research on network protocols. Derek Barber directed the project and Roger Scantlebury
led the UK technical contribution; both were from NPL.[38][39][40] Work began in 1973 and it became
operational in 1976 including nodes linking the NPL network and CYCLADES.[41] The transport protocol
of the EIN was the basis of the one adopted by the International Networking Working Group.[42][43] EIN
was replaced by Euronet in 1979.[44]

EPSS

The Experimental Packet Switched Service (EPSS) was an experiment of the UK Post Office
Telecommunications. It was the first public data network in the UK when it began operating in 1977, based
on the Coloured Book protocols defined by the UK academic community in 1975.[45] Ferranti supplied the
hardware and software. The handling of link control messages (acknowledgements and flow control) was
different from that of most other networks.[46][47]

GEIS

As General Electric Information Services (GEIS), General Electric was a major international provider of
information services. The company originally designed a telephone network to serve as its internal (albeit
continent-wide) voice telephone network.

In 1965, at the instigation of Warner Sinback, a data network based on this voice-phone network was
designed to connect GE's four computer sales and service centers (Schenectady, New York, Chicago, and
Phoenix) to facilitate a computer time-sharing service, apparently the world's first commercial online
service. (In addition to selling GE computers, the centers were computer service bureaus, offering batch
processing services. They lost money from the beginning, and Sinback, a high-level marketing manager, was
given the job of turning the business around. He decided that a time-sharing system, based on Kemeny's
work at Dartmouth—which used a computer on loan from GE—could be profitable. Warner was right.)

After going international some years later, GEIS created a network data center near Cleveland, Ohio. Very
little has been published about the internal details of their network. (Though it has been stated by some that
Tymshare copied the GEIS system to create their network, Tymnet.) The design was hierarchical with
redundant communication links.[48][49]

IPSANET

IPSANET was a semi-private network constructed by I. P. Sharp Associates to serve their time-sharing
customers. It became operational in May 1976.

IPX/SPX

The Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) and Sequenced Packet Exchange (SPX) are Novell networking
protocols derived from Xerox Network Systems' IDP and SPP protocols, respectively. They were used
primarily on networks using the Novell NetWare operating systems.[50]

Merit Network

Merit Network, Inc., an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation governed by Michigan's public
universities,[51] was formed in 1966 as the Michigan Educational Research Information Triad to explore
computer networking between three of Michigan's public universities as a means to help the state's
educational and economic development.[52] With initial support from the State of Michigan and the National
Science Foundation (NSF), the packet-switched network was first demonstrated in December 1971 when an
interactive host-to-host connection was made between the IBM mainframe computer systems at the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Wayne State University in Detroit.[53] In October 1972,
connections to the CDC mainframe at Michigan State University in East Lansing completed the triad. Over
the next several years, in addition to host-to-host interactive connections, the network was enhanced to
support terminal-to-host connections, host-to-host batch connections (remote job submission, remote
printing, batch file transfer), interactive file transfer, gateways to the Tymnet and Telenet public data
networks, X.25 host attachments, gateways to X.25 data networks, Ethernet attached hosts, and eventually
TCP/IP; additionally, public universities in Michigan joined the network.[53][54] All of this set the stage for
Merit's role in the NSFNET project starting in the mid-1980s.

NPL

In 1965, Donald Davies of the National Physical Laboratory (United Kingdom) designed and proposed a
national data network based on packet switching. The proposal was not taken up nationally, but by 1967, a
pilot experiment had demonstrated the feasibility of packet switched networks.[15][16]

By 1969 Davies had begun building the Mark I packet-switched network to meet the needs of the
multidisciplinary laboratory and prove the technology under operational conditions.[55][17][56] In 1976, 12
computers and 75 terminal devices were attached,[57] and more were added until the network was replaced
in 1986. NPL, followed by ARPANET, were the first two networks to use packet switching, and were
interconnected in the early 1970s.[58][59][60]

OCTOPUS

Octopus was a local network at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It connected sundry hosts at the
lab to interactive terminals and various computer peripherals including a bulk storage system.[61][62][63]

Philips Research

Philips Research Laboratories in Redhill, Surrey developed a packet switching network for internal use. It
was a datagram network with a single switching node.[64]

PUP

PARC Universal Packet (PUP or Pup) was one of the two earliest internetwork protocol suites; it was
created by researchers at Xerox PARC in the mid-1970s. The entire suite provided routing and packet
delivery, as well as higher level functions such as a reliable byte stream, along with numerous applications.
Further developments led to Xerox Network Systems (XNS).[65]

RCP

RCP was an experimental network created by the French PTT. It was used to gain experience with packet
switching technology before the specification of TRANSPAC was frozen[66]. RCP was a virtual-circuit
network in contrast to CYCLADES which was based on datagrams. RCP emphasised terminal-to-host and
terminal-to-terminal connection; CYCLADES was concerned with host-to-host communication.
TRANSPAC was introduced as an X.25 network. RCP influenced the specification of X.25[67][68][69]

RETD
Red Especial de Transmisión de Datos was a network developed by Compañía Telefónica Nacional de
España. It became operational in 1972 and thus was the first public network.[70][71][72]

SCANNET

"The experimental packet-switched Nordic telecommunication network SCANNET was implemented in


Nordic technical libraries in the 1970s, and it included first Nordic electronic journal Extemplo. Libraries
were also among first ones in universities to accommodate microcomputers for public use in the early
1980s."[73]

SITA HLN

SITA is a consortium of airlines. Its High Level Network became operational in 1969 at about the same time
as ARPANET. It carried interactive traffic and message-switching traffic. As with many non-academic
networks, very little has been published about it.[74]

IBM Systems Network Architecture

IBM Systems Network Architecture (SNA) is IBM's proprietary networking architecture created in 1974.
An IBM customer could acquire hardware and software from IBM and lease private lines from a common
carrier to construct a private network.[75]

Telenet

Telenet was the first FCC-licensed public data network in the United States. Telenet was incorporated in
1973 and started operations in 1975. It was founded by Bolt Beranek & Newman with Larry Roberts as
CEO as a means of making packet switching technology public. He had tried to interest AT&T in buying the
technology, but the monopoly's reaction was that this was incompatible with their future. It initially used
ARPANET technology but changed the host interface to X.25 and the terminal interface to X.29. It went
public in 1979 and was then sold to GTE.[76][77]

Tymnet

Tymnet was an international data communications network headquartered in San Jose, CA that utilized
virtual call packet switched technology and used X.25, SNA/SDLC, BSC and ASCII interfaces to connect
host computers (servers) at thousands of large companies, educational institutions, and government
agencies. Users typically connected via dial-up connections or dedicated async connections. The business
consisted of a large public network that supported dial-up users and a private network business that allowed
government agencies and large companies (mostly banks and airlines) to build their own dedicated
networks. The private networks were often connected via gateways to the public network to reach locations
not on the private network. Tymnet was also connected to dozens of other public networks in the U.S. and
internationally via X.25/X.75 gateways. (Interesting note: Tymnet was not named after Mr. Tyme. Another
employee suggested the name.) [78] [79]

XNS

Xerox Network Systems (XNS) was a protocol suite promulgated by Xerox, which provided routing and
packet delivery, as well as higher level functions such as a reliable stream, and remote procedure calls. It
was developed from PARC Universal Packet (PUP).[80][81]
X.25 era

There were two kinds of X.25 networks. Some such as DATAPAC and TRANSPAC were initially
implemented with an X.25 external interface. Some older networks such as TELENET and TYMNET were
modified to provide a X.25 host interface in addition to older host connection schemes. DATAPAC was
developed by Bell Northern Research which was a joint venture of Bell Canada (a common carrier) and
Northern Telecom (a telecommunications equipment supplier). Northern Telecom sold several DATAPAC
clones to foreign PTTs including the Deutsche Bundespost. X.75 and X.121 allowed the interconnection of
national X.25 networks. A user or host could call a host on a foreign network by including the DNIC of the
remote network as part of the destination address.

AUSTPAC

AUSTPAC was an Australian public X.25 network operated by Telstra. Started by Telecom Australia in the
early 1980s, AUSTPAC was Australia's first public packet-switched data network, supporting applications
such as on-line betting, financial applications—the Australian Tax Office made use of AUSTPAC—and
remote terminal access to academic institutions, who maintained their connections to AUSTPAC up until the
mid-late 1990s in some cases. Access can be via a dial-up terminal to a PAD, or, by linking a permanent
X.25 node to the network.[82]

ConnNet

ConnNet was a packet-switched data network operated by the Southern New England Telephone Company
serving the state of Connecticut.[83]

Datanet 1

Datanet 1 was the public switched data network operated by the Dutch PTT Telecom (now known as KPN).
Strictly speaking Datanet 1 only referred to the network and the connected users via leased lines (using the
X.121 DNIC 2041), the name also referred to the public PAD service Telepad (using the DNIC 2049). And
because the main Videotex service used the network and modified PAD devices as infrastructure the name
Datanet 1 was used for these services as well. Although this use of the name was incorrect all these services
were managed by the same people within one department of KPN contributed to the confusion.[84]

Datapac

DATAPAC was the first operational X.25 network (1976). It covered major Canadian cities and was
eventually extended to smaller centres.

Datex-P

Deutsche Bundespost operated this national network in Germany. The technology was acquired from
Northern Telecom.

Eirpac

Eirpac is the Irish public switched data network supporting X.25 and X.28. It was launched in 1984,
replacing Euronet. Eirpac is run by Eircom.[85][86][87]
Euronet

Nine member states of the European Economic Community contracted with Logica and the French company
SESA to set up a joint venture in 1975 to undertake the Euronet development, using X.25 protocols to form
virtual circuits. It was to replace EIN and established a network in 1979 linking a number of European
countries until 1984 when the network was handed over to national PTTs.[88][89]

HIPA-NET

Hitachi designed a private network system for sale as a turnkey package to multi-national organizations. In
addition to providing X.25 packet switching, message switching software was also included. Messages were
buffered at the nodes adjacent to the sending and receiving terminals. Switched virtual calls were not
supported, but through the use of "logical ports" an originating terminal could have a menu of pre-defined
destination terminals. [90]

Iberpac

Iberpac is the Spanish public packet-switched network, providing X.25 services. Iberpac is run by
Telefonica.

IPSS

In 1978, X.25 provided the first international and commercial packet switching network, the International
Packet Switched Service (IPSS).

JANET

JANET was the UK academic and research network, linking all universities, higher education
establishments, publicly funded research laboratories.[91] The X.25 network, which used the Coloured Book
protocols, was based mainly on GEC 4000 series switches, and run X.25 links at up to 8 Mbit/s in its final
phase before being converted to an IP based network. The JANET network grew out of the 1970s SRCnet,
later called SERCnet.[92]

PSS

Packet Switch Stream (PSS) was the UK Post Office (later to become British Telecom) national X.25
network with a DNIC of 2342. British Telecom renamed PSS under its GNS (Global Network Service)
name, but the PSS name has remained better known. PSS also included public dial-up PAD access, and
various InterStream gateways to other services such as Telex.

TRANSPAC

TRANSPAC was the national X.25 network in France.[93] It was developed locally at about the same time as
DATAPAC in Canada. The development was done by the French PTT and influenced by the experimental
RCP network.[66] It began operation in 1978, and served both commercial users and, after Minitel began,
consumers.[94]

VENUS-P
VENUS-P was an international X.25 network that operated from April 1982 through March 2006. At its
subscription peak in 1999, VENUS-P connected 207 networks in 87 countries.[95]

Venepaq

Venepaq is the national X.25 public network in Venezuela. It is run by Cantv and allow direct connection
and dial up connections. Provides nationalwide access at very low cost. It provides national and
international access. Venepaq allow connection from 19.2 kbit/s to 64 kbit/s in direct connections, and 1200,
2400 and 9600 bit/s in dial up connections.

Internet era

When Internet connectivity was made available to anyone who could pay for an ISP subscription, the
distinctions between national networks blurred. The user no longer saw network identifiers such as the
DNIC. Some older technologies such as circuit switching have resurfaced with new names such as fast
packet switching. Researchers have created some experimental networks to complement the existing
Internet.[96]

CSNET

The Computer Science Network (CSNET) was a computer network funded by the U.S. National Science
Foundation (NSF) that began operation in 1981. Its purpose was to extend networking benefits, for
computer science departments at academic and research institutions that could not be directly connected to
ARPANET, due to funding or authorization limitations. It played a significant role in spreading awareness
of, and access to, national networking and was a major milestone on the path to development of the global
Internet.[97][98]

Internet2

Internet2 is a not-for-profit United States computer networking consortium led by members from the
research and education communities, industry, and government.[99] The Internet2 community, in partnership
with Qwest, built the first Internet2 Network, called Abilene, in 1998 and was a prime investor in the
National LambdaRail (NLR) project.[100] In 2006, Internet2 announced a partnership with Level 3
Communications to launch a brand new nationwide network, boosting its capacity from 10 Gbit/s to 100
Gbit/s.[101] In October, 2007, Internet2 officially retired Abilene and now refers to its new, higher capacity
network as the Internet2 Network.

NSFNET

The National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) was a program of coordinated, evolving projects
sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) beginning in 1985 to promote advanced research and
education networking in the United States.[102] NSFNET was also the name given to several nationwide
backbone networks operating at speeds of 56 kbit/s, 1.5 Mbit/s (T1), and 45 Mbit/s (T3) that were
constructed to support NSF's networking initiatives from 1985-1995. Initially created to link researchers to
the nation's NSF-funded supercomputing centers, through further public funding and private industry
partnerships it developed into a major part of the Internet backbone.

NSFNET regional networks


In addition to the five NSF supercomputer centers, NSFNET
provided connectivity to eleven regional networks and through these
networks to many smaller regional and campus networks in the
United States. The NSFNET regional networks were:[103][104]

BARRNet, the Bay Area Regional Research Network in


Palo Alto, California;
CERFNET, California Education and Research Federation
Network in San Diego, California, serving California and
Nevada;
NSFNET Traffic 1991, NSFNET
CICNet, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation backbone nodes are shown at the
Network via the Merit Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan and top, regional networks below, traffic
later as part of the T3 upgrade via Argonne National volume is depicted from purple (zero
Laboratory outside of Chicago, serving the Big Ten bytes) to white (100 billion bytes),
Universities and the University of Chicago in Illinois, visualization by NCSA using traffic
Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin; data provided by the Merit Network.
Merit/MichNet in Ann Arbor, Michigan serving Michigan,
formed in 1966, still in operation as of 2016;[105]
MIDnet in Lincoln, Nebraska serving Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma,
and South Dakota;
NEARNET, the New England Academic and Research Network in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
added as part of the upgrade to T3, serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, established in late 1988, operated by BBN under
contract to MIT, BBN assumed responsibility for NEARNET on 1 July 1993;[106]
NorthWestNet in Seattle, Washington, serving Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon,
and Washington, founded in 1987;[107]
NYSERNet, New York State Education and Research Network in Ithaca, New York;
JVNCNet, the John von Neumann National Supercomputer Center Network in Princeton, New
Jersey, serving Delaware and New Jersey;
SESQUINET, the Sesquicentennial Network in Houston, Texas, founded during the 150th
anniversary of the State of Texas;
SURAnet, the Southeastern Universities Research Association network in College Park,
Maryland and later as part of the T3 upgrade in Atlanta, Georgia serving Alabama, Florida,
Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, sold to BBN in 1994; and
Westnet in Salt Lake City, Utah and Boulder, Colorado, serving Arizona, Colorado, New
Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

National LambdaRail

The National LambdaRail was launched in September 2003. It is a 12,000-mile high-speed national
computer network owned and operated by the U.S. research and education community that runs over fiber-
optic lines. It was the first transcontinental 10 Gigabit Ethernet network. It operates with high aggregate
capacity of up to 1.6 Tbit/s and a high 40 Gbit/s bitrate, with plans for 100 Gbit/s.[108][109] The upgrade
never took place and NLR ceased operations in March 2014.

TransPAC, TransPAC2, and TransPAC3


TransPAC2 and TransPAC3, continuations of the TransPAC project, a high-speed international Internet
service connecting research and education networks in the Asia-Pacific region to those in the US.[110][111]
TransPAC is part of the NSF’s International Research Network Connections (IRNC) program.[112]

Very high-speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS)

The Very high-speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS) came on line in April 1995 as part of a National
Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored project to provide high-speed interconnection between NSF-sponsored
supercomputing centers and select access points in the United States.[113] The network was engineered and
operated by MCI Telecommunications under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. By 1998, the vBNS had
grown to connect more than 100 universities and research and engineering institutions via 12 national points
of presence with DS-3 (45 Mbit/s), OC-3c (155 Mbit/s), and OC-12c (622 Mbit/s) links on an all OC-12c
backbone, a substantial engineering feat for that time. The vBNS installed one of the first ever production
OC-48c (2.5 Gbit/s) IP links in February 1999 and went on to upgrade the entire backbone to OC-48c.[114]

In June 1999 MCI WorldCom introduced vBNS+ which allowed attachments to the vBNS network by
organizations that were not approved by or receiving support from NSF.[115] After the expiration of the NSF
agreement, the vBNS largely transitioned to providing service to the government. Most universities and
research centers migrated to the Internet2 educational backbone. In January 2006, when MCI and Verizon
merged,[116] vBNS+ became a service of Verizon Business.[117]

See also
CompuServe
Multi-bearer network
Optical burst switching
Packet radio
Public switched data network
Time-Driven Switching - a bufferless approach to packet switching
Transmission delay
Virtual private network

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Bibliography
Paul Baran et al., On Distributed Communications, Volumes I-XI (http://www.rand.org/about/his
tory/baran-list.html) (RAND Corporation Research Documents, August, 1964)
Paul Baran, On Distributed Communications: I Introduction to Distributed Communications
Network (http://www.rand.org/publications/RM/RM3420/) (RAND Memorandum RM-3420-
PR. August 1964)
Paul Baran, On Distributed Communications Networks (http://www.cs.ucla.edu/classes/cs217/
Baran64.pdf), (IEEE Transactions on Communications Systems, Vol. CS-12 No. 1, pp. 1–9,
March 1964)
D. W. Davies, K. A. Bartlett, R. A. Scantlebury, and P. T. Wilkinson, A digital communications
network for computers giving rapid response at remote terminals (ACM Symposium on
Operating Systems Principles. October 1967)
R. A. Scantlebury, P. T. Wilkinson, and K. A. Bartlett, The design of a message switching
Centre for a digital communication network (IFIP 1968)
Lawrence Roberts, The Evolution of Packet Switching (https://web.archive.org/web/201603240
33133/http://www.packet.cc/files/ev-packet-sw.html) (Proceedings of the IEEE, November,
1978)

Further reading
Abbate, Janet (2000), Inventing the Internet
(https://archive.org/details/inventinginterne00jane), MIT Press, ISBN 9780262511155
Hafner, Katie Where Wizards Stay Up Late (Simon and Schuster, 1996) pp 52–67
Norberg, Arthur; O'Neill, Judy E. Transforming Computer Technology: Information Processing
for the Pentagon, 1962-1982 (Johns Hopkins University, 1996)

External links
Oral history interview with Paul Baran (http://purl.umn.edu/107101). Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Baran describes his working environment at RAND, as
well as his initial interest in survivable communications, and the evolution, writing and
distribution of his eleven-volume work, "On Distributed Communications". Baran discusses his
interaction with the group at ARPA who were responsible for the later development of the
ARPANET.
NPL Data Communications Network (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_ojeeTIqFM&index=
29&list=PL59D1CD3E3C7C070F) NPL video, 1970s
Packet Switching History and Design (http://www.livinginternet.com/i/iw_packet.htm), site
reviewed by Baran, Roberts, and Kleinrock
Paul Baran and the Origins of the Internet (http://www.rand.org/about/history/baran.html)
20+ articles on packet switching in the 1970s (http://www.rogerdmoore.ca/PS)
"An Introduction to Packet Switched Networks", Phrack, 05/3/88 (http://www.phrack.org/issues.
html?issue=18&id=3#article)

This article is based on material taken from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing prior to 1 November 2008 and
incorporated under the "relicensing" terms of the GFDL, version 1.3 or later.

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